Departmental Bulletin Paper Women in Combat: Gender and the Armed Forces in Great Britain and Japan during the Second World War

Hayashida, Toshiko

46pp.161 - 178 , 2016-03 , Institute for Research in Humanities Kyoto University
The aim of this paper is to explore the gender problems raised by the mobilisation of women in the wartime services in Great Britain and Japan during the Second World War. Both countries faced the threat of land invasion and introduced women into the armed forces. In the case of Britain, while young single women were conscripted as regular members of the military, they were not qualified as combatants. In Japan, towards the end of the war, the government prepared for ‘decisive battles' by organising combat forces under the direction of the regular army, which included women as well as men. These combat forces were actually formed in some regions. Their members, including women, were not considered regular soldiers, but they were supposed to be given the status of combatants. On the contrary, the British government, which tried to maintain male supremacy in the military, strictly prohibited women from undertaking combat missions. However, it was not very easy to draw a clear boundary between combat and non-combat actions because the difference between defence (air defence) and offence (counter-attacks) had become paper-thin. Women who were assigned to anti-aircraft units quietly encroached on the intended gender barriers in the military, which presented a challenge to the conventional gender norms.

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